Rumours of plans for a new Leamington District Secondar School being shelved have officially been put to rest.
Although ground preparation began earlier in May, the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new high school took place with several community representatives present as witnesses. Leamington District Secondary School principal Kyle Berard served as the outdoor event’s emcee, welcoming a number of speakers who also represent the Greater Essex County District School Board. The Wednesday, May 25 groundbreaking ceremony itself included GECDSB personnel as well as Glos Associates Inc. vice president and senior architect Randi Glos and Rosati co-owners Tony and Nick Rosati. Glos Associates Inc. stepped forward as the architect for the new school while Rosati was awarded as the general contractor to oversee the building’s construction.
Rosati began stripping soil to officially start the groundwork on Monday, May 9 after partially framing the site’s perimeter. About 20 workers are involved in the initial stages of construction and by the time the project reaches completion in the summer of next year, more than 100 Rosati employees will be on site.
“Most importantly, I’m here to welcome and congratulate the people we serve — the families and the students of Leamington who have waited very patiently for this day,” Berard said during the May 25 gathering.
“I’m very happy that we’ve reached this significant stage in our school’s life cycle,” added GECDSB trustee Dave Taves, who welcomed additional board trustees to the event. “There’s now evidence to prove that this is more than a promise, that this is a reality.”
Taves also acknowledged other guests of the groundbreaking, which included Leamington mayor John Paterson and other members of municipal council and administration. The gathering also included representatives of Leamington District Memorial Hospital and a handful of current LDSS students.
“New high schools don’t come along very often, and we must appreciate it when they do,” said GECDSB director of education Erin Kelly. “Baby boomers were still babies when Leamington District High School was built on Talbot Street.”
During her time at the podium, Kelly thanked the multiple sources that made construction of a new LDSS feasible including the Ontario provincial government and Ministry of Education, which stepped forward with $24 million for the project. Construction costs will ring in at about $24.6 million of the total expense of $32 million.
“The new school will mean a lot of things,” explained LDSS Grade 9 student Layla Bakaa. “Central air, modern design, advanced technology. It’s not just about the material advancements, it’s about our future. This opportunity will allow us to create the future we see for ourselves and for generations to come.”
The new school will be situated on a property of 19.5 acres immediately south of Oak Street and a short distance west of Sherk Street. Amenities will include 27 classrooms, six science rooms, a library, triple gymnasium, a theatre arts room, cafeteria, two culinary arts rooms and transportation and construction technical areas. The building will be able to accommodate 1,000 students and is slated to open in September of next year for the start of 2017-18 courses.
The current LDSS at 125 Talbot St. East was constructed in 1964 and was declared prohibitive to repair in 2007 by the Ministry of Education. After addressing countless rumours and concerns that plans for a new school would not come to fruition, Berard expressed a sigh of relief to see construction officially begin.
“It’s fantastic to see them pushing dirt,” he noted. “I’m now hearing a lot of positive comments from the community — everyone believes it’s coming now.”
As the new Leamington District Secondary School and its property continue to take shape, Berard and his cohorts will form a transition committee of 12 to 15 people including community partners, staff and students. The group will decide on how to honour the old school and discuss topics including technical details and how to furnish the new building.
“Part of what we’re doing is giving a voice to everybody,” he explained. “Only the new stuff (from the current school) will be moving, but if something is of good quality, we’ll keep it — we won’t waste the taxpayer’s money.”